As the trend towards digital downloads picks up momentum on the home consoles, Sony has embraced the download option for their retail games on the PlayStation Vita, and it gives consumers a choice between physical and digital media on day one. The benefits of this are not lost on Nintendo, who has just announced that they, too, are is jumping on the digital bandwagon with select first-party titles the 3DS. Whether your pleasure is owning a physical copy of the game, or downloading it for instant gratification, Nintendo is aiming to have you covered on both sides.
Beginning in August, and coinciding with the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2, Nintendo will be offering players the option to download first-party titles from the eShop on release day. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, when discussing the financial performance of Nintendo, noted that the increase of internet-enabled games on the 3DS, coupled with the growing number of people accessing the internet from their handhelds, is the driving force behind this decision. The figures he quoted suggested that 70% of 3DS owners in the US and Japan utilize the internet on the device, while the numbers in Europe are lower, rounding off at around 50%. The numbers show an incentive to focus more on internet options, with the digital download initiative being a logical step. Iwata further explained his decision during the meeting:
“Since the packaged and the digital download formats both have their own merits, we would like to offer both of these options to our consumers,” he noted, adding “Some may wonder why we are adding this kind of process, as it may seem more complicated. However, for the majority of our consumers, this is a familiar process as they are already accustomed to making payments at the retail outlets, and it can lower their psychological barrier to making online purchases.”
Iwata went further to explain that the digital downloads aren’t intended to edge retailers. Physical media will still be sold at brick-and-mortar shops, and the 3DS titles will be available either from the eShop or download codes you can purchase in store. The big issue for consumers will be the price difference between the two mediums, as Vita games downloaded from the PlayStation Store are priced moderately lower than the physical equivalent. It has yet to be confirmed if Nintendo will adopt the same practice.
Currently, the only game confirmed for day-one digital release is New Super Mario Bros. 2, with other titles in the Brain Age and Nintendogs series to follow. The plan currently only covers first-party titles from Nintendo, and it is not known if it’s planned to include third-party as well. Iwata also noted that the upcoming Wii U console may incorporate this system as well, and more details on that will likely be revealed as the system’s launch draws near.